Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Even free-ish trade is a good thing [update 1]

Clark_ChineseTrade Free trade?  Free trade doesn't come with tariffs, employment restrictions and other protectionist restraints on trade.  It doesn't come with pages and pages of agreements on duties, tariffs and quotas, and the continued entanglement of the state with economics.  Free trade is what it says it is: trade that's free of all government restrictions on sellers and buyers.

Genuinely free trade doesn't need pages and pages of lofty documents to protect them -- all that capitalist acts between consenting adults need to flourish is the disentanglement of the state from the loading docks and business houses of importers and exporters.  It's said that the US Declaration of Independence was written on one piece of parchment, and the ten commandments on two pieces of stone, but the European Union regulations on trade in bananas fill four hefty volumes that are less readable than a your average book of Chinese algebra. That's not how genuine free trade looks.

On that basis, the agreement the New Zealand government has just signed is not a free trade deal, but merely a freeish trade deal.

But that's still a good thing.   And it's damned exciting  to see two countries letting the breath of freeish air blow through their trade relations .. and damned refreshing to see politicians from all persuasions celebrating the opening up of trade and to announcing the slow abandonment of protectionism.  What we have today is better than we had yesterday -- even if it's not as good as we'll have in 2019 when the last of the tariffs is supposed to run out -- and more than you'd expect from two governments both on the reddish end of the political spectrum.

For those opposed, let's just remind ourselves of the chief benefits of trade:

  • There's the "double thank you moment." When you and I engage in trade -- let's say I pay you ten-thousand dollars for a container-load of iPods -- what we've both decided is that I value the iPods more than the ten-thousand dollars, whereas you value the money more than the noise-making equipment. We both win -- and the economy is the richer because both my money and your goods have moved to people who value them the most, and who can put them to the most productive ends -- and we all get to fill our homes and our counting houses with the stuff that we most want.

    This is a good thing, and it's proof again there's nothing "invisible" about Adam Smith's invisible hand. Trade benefits everyone.  "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest." The butcher, the brewer and the iPod-maker "direct [their] industry in such a manner as [their] produce may be of the greatest value," and we are the beneficiaries of their labours and their trade -- each intends only his own gain, but by the blessing of trade he is, said old Adam, "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."
  • International trade is a prime example of the virtue of comparative advantage, from which we all benefit.  Land-locked Switzerland for example produces watches and banking services in order to buy food and sailors, whereas we produce wool, beef, dairy products and sailors in order to buy the world's manufactured goods (and since most of these are now being manufactured in China, it's easy to see why trade with China is a good thing).  We all produce in order to trade, and the end result of all this industry is that the whole world is made better by the fact that we all specialise in doing what we do best: there are more watches, more food, more dairy products, more manufactured goods (and better and richer sailors) than there would be in the world if we all closed our borders and tried to do everything ourselves.

And let's remind ourselves that this is the reason we go to work every day: to be able to buy stuff that keeps us and our families alive and flourishing.  All that those remaining tariffs are going to do is make it more expensive for Ma and Pa Home-Owner to buy the stuff they need to make their homes better. Free trade makes everyone more prosperous (just look at that graph to the right for example to see what lowering tariffs, decreasing protectionism and increasing trade did for the US.)

Not everyone can see these benefits however, or if they do recognise them they raise other issues.

  • There are people who will argue that free trade kills local jobs. Just think for a moment about that. It certainly closes down jobs in industries and companies that don't perform well, and are doing things we don't do best -- but what it does by opening up trade is making goods cheaper for everybody who is working, leaving money in their pockets to buy from industries making use of that newly available labour to enter production in areas in which we're more productive.  In other words, trade allows us to move labour from less productive to more productive areas of industry, which will probably involve greater specialisation and increased comparative advantage.

    Everybody kicks a goal, and we're all made wealthier by it.  (And that's the case whatever China or anyone else does with regard to tariffs on our own exports.)
  • There are people who argue that trade with China encourages a government that persists in human rights abuses.  It's true: it does.  Recent events in Burma and Tibet and the ongoing human rights abuses and continuing existence of slave labour gulags suggest that with the Olympics just months away, Chinese politics now looks little different to Chinese politics at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre

    But as we read news of Buddhist monks being shot on the streets of Lhasa, the chief question to consider is, "What can we do?"  The main thing to ask yourself whether free trade will 'open up' China more effectively than the Olympics, and the answer is "Of course.

    No one should ignore the liberating force that is free trade. Blockades and embargoes haven't made either Cuba or North Korea more free.  Imagine for example if trade with Cuba had been left as free as trade with Vietnam -- instead of fifty years of blockade and oppression and Old Busy Whiskers, Cubans would instead have been rewarded with the benefits of trade and the fruits of industry, and Old Busy Whiskers would be a long forgotten footnote in history.  Think about the example of trade and liberalisation provided by Hong Kong -- a beacon to all of us, let alone China -- and a prime example of how trade makes even the residents of a resource-free rock richer than Croesus could even dream about, and gives them all greater freedom.  Think about that when you oppose free trade on this basis.
  • There are people too who argue that trade with China will empower its military.  This is an argument that on the face of it has more legs, but on closer inspection is seen as just as illusory.  As Frederic Bastiat used to point out (and there's still no one better to read on the subject of free trade), "where goods don't cross borders, then armies will."  "Countries that trade," points out Bastiat commentator Lew Rockwell, "have a mutual stake in the preservation of open, friendly relations. This is one reason that free commercial activities promote peace, and why protectionism and trade sanctions generate war tensions...  Our lives – by which I mean the lives of regular people in [NZ] and in China – are made immeasurably better because of the freedom to trade. Our networks of exchange build private-sector prosperity in both countries."  This is a lesson learned by Japan and Japan's enemies in the death and destruction of the Second World War -- and if they'd read Bastiat instead of Clausewitz they would have learned it long before -- that when it comes to gaining a world full of resources, production and trade beats blockades and conquest every time.

    So we have to conclude again that as long as trade with China excludes trade in weapons (and Raykon aside, we hardly have any sort of comparative advantage in this area), then this is another argument that fails.

The fact is that this freeish trade deal is something to celebrate, just as it's something to celebrate that so many commentators are prepared to celebrate it.  That' real cause for a double celebration.  Cheers!

UPDATE: Not all commentators are prepared to celebrate. John Minto, as you may have guessed, isn't prepared to celebrate. He had an anti-trade piece in the Christchurch Press yesterday. Paul Walker makes a few comments on his article here, and good ones they are too. He concludes, not unreasonably, "Mr Minto should enrol in a first year economics course, he would learn much. But he would then have to buy the textbook ... and that is most likely to be imported."

'House on the Mesa' - Frank Lloyd Wright

W1931_mesa03

Frank Lloyd Wright's 'House on the Mesa', designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for phony Philip Johnson's International Style exhibition of 1932, and shown here in the form of a student's model of the project.

Johnson had bought the exhibition by his parents to introduce "modern architecture" to a New York audience.  When asked by a colleague why Frank Lloyd Wright had not been invited to contribute a piece to the exhibition, co-curated with Henry Russell Hitchcock, Johnson replied, "I thought he was dead." "That was interpreted as the insult it was meant to be," admitted Johnson later, after Wright had contributed this design, which frankly blew away every one of the other, derivative, designs in the display.  As Wright said of the style so breathlessly promoted by Johnson and his coterie, "The 'International Style' is nothing but the architecture of the box with its face lifted."

Wright had not only inspired the generation of architects that the Hitchcock-Johnson exhibition helped to make famous, but pale knock-offs of this house and many others of this era - rendered mostly with very little understanding of what's been borrowed -- still litter the pages of architecture magazines over seventy-five years later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Monday, 7 April 2008

'The Toxicity of Environmentalism'

I first read George Reisman's article 'The Toxicity of Environmentalism' back in the early nineties, and over the weekend I heard it for the first time, recorded at a its delivery at the University of Minnesota in 1991.

Galt it's good.

It could have been delivered yesterday.  Seventeen years after he told a stunned audience they were part of a "so-called intellectual mainstream of the Western world [that] has been fouled with a whole array of intellectual toxins resulting from the undermining of reason and the status of man" -- intellectual toxins that "can be seen bobbing up and down in the 'intellectual mainstream,' just as raw sewage can be seen floating in a dirty river" -- his analysis of why the scaremongering predictions of environmentalists would be proved wrong has proved correct; his dissection of the environmental movement's toxicity (toxic not just at the level of parts per million, but "at the level of parts per ten") is still accurate; and his analysis of the fundamental premise of environmentalism -- ie., the intrinsic value of nature -- as fundamentally anti-human is still right on the money.

Yes, this post describing his talk is long, and the article and talk are even longer, but the seventeen years that have passed since its inception have only proved its veracity.

That the scaremongering predictions of environmentalists have and are being proved wrong gives Reisman no claim to any power to predict the future.  As he says:

    The reason that one after another of the environmentalists' claims turn out to be proven wrong is that they are made without any regard for truth in the first place. In making their claims, the environmentalists reach for whatever is at hand that will serve to frighten people, make them lose confidence in science and technology, and, ultimately, lead them to deliver themselves up to the environmentalists' tender mercies. The claims rest on unsupported conjectures and wild leaps of imagination from scintillas of fact to arbitrary conclusions, by means of evasion and the drawing of invalid inferences. It is out and out evasion and invalid inference to leap from findings about the effects of feeding rats or mice dosages the equivalent of a hundred or more times what any human being would ever ingest, and then draw inferences about the effects on people of consuming normal quantities. Fears of parts per billion of this or that chemical causing single-digit deaths per million do not rest on science, but on imagination. Such claims have nothing to do either with actual experimentation or with the concept of causality.

Causality is the all-too frequently overlooked key to rejecting the majority of the scaremongering science in advance.

When, for example, genuine causes of death, such as arsenic, strychnine, or bullets, attack vital organs of the human body, death is absolutely certain to result in all but a handful of cases per million. When something is in fact the cause of some effect, it is so in each and every case in which specified conditions prevail, and fails to be so only in cases in which the specified conditions are not present, such as a person's having built up a tolerance to poison or wearing a bulletproof vest. Such claims as a thousand different things each causing cancer in a handful of cases are proof of nothing but that the actual causes are not yet known--and, beyond that, an indication of the breakdown of the epistemology of contemporary science. (This epistemological breakdown, I might add, radically accelerated starting practically on the very day in the 1960s when the government took over most of the scientific research ... and began the large scale financing of statistical studies as a substitute for the discovery of causes.)

Reisman is particularly scathing on the subject of global warming, and remind yourself when you read this that he was saying this in 1991:

    The environmental movement maintains that science and technology cannot be relied upon to build a safe atomic power plant, to produce a pesticide that is safe, or even to bake a loaf of bread that is safe, if that loaf of bread contains chemical preservatives. When it comes to global warming, however, it turns out that there is one area in which the environmental movement displays the most breathtaking confidence in the reliability of science and technology, an area in which, until recently, no one--not even the staunchest supporters of science and technology--had ever thought to assert very much confidence at all. The one thing, the environmental movement holds, that science and technology can do so well that we are entitled to have unlimited confidence in them is forecast the weather--for the next one hundred years!
   
It is, after all, supposedly on the basis of a weather forecast that we are being asked to abandon the Industrial Revolution...

This is not the act of "prudence and caution" so often cited as exemplifying the so called 'precautionary principle'; it would be neither prudent nor cautious to throw away the almost unlimited boon that past generations bestowed on us by virtue of the Industrial Revolution.  To abandon industrial civilization, and the enormous increase in wealth, health and life expectancy it brought, simply to avoid predictions of bad weather -- predictions that we now know were flawed from the outset -- would be quite simply insane.

   If we destroy the energy base needed to produce and operate the construction equipment required to build strong, well-made, comfortable houses for hundreds of millions of people, we shall be safer from the wind and rain, the environmental movement alleges, than if we retain and enlarge that energy base. If we destroy our capacity to produce and operate refrigerators and air conditioners, we shall be better protected from hot weather than if we retain and enlarge that capacity, the environmental movement claims. If we destroy our capacity to produce and operate tractors and harvesters, to can and freeze food, to build and operate hospitals and produce medicines, we shall secure our food supply and our health better than if we retain and enlarge that capacity, the environmental movement asserts.
   
There is actually a remarkable new principle implied here, concerning how man can cope with his environment. Instead of our taking action upon nature, as we have always believed we must do, we shall henceforth control the forces of nature more to our advantage by means of our inaction. Indeed, if we do not act, no significant threatening forces of nature will arise! The threatening forces of nature are not the product of nature, but of us! Thus speaks the environmental movement.
   
All of the insanities of the environmental movement become intelligible when one grasps the nature of the destructive motivation behind them. They are not uttered in the interest of man's life and well-being, but for the purpose of leading him to self-destruction.

That's the key to his argument.  Here's the kernel:

    Such statements [as these from David Graber & Steve McKibben et al hoping for "the extinction of the human species"] represent pure, unadulterated poison. They express ideas and wishes which, if acted upon, would mean terror and death for enormous numbers of human beings.
   These statements, and others like them, are made by prominent members of the environmental movement. The significance of such statements cannot be diminished by ascribing them only to a small fringe of the environmental movement. Indeed, even if such views were indicative of the thinking of only 5 or 10 percent of the members of the environmental movement - the "deep ecology," Earth First! wing - they would represent toxicity in the environmental movement as a whole not at the level of parts per billion or even parts per million, but at the level of parts per hundred, which, of course, is an enormously higher level of toxicity than is deemed to constitute a danger to human life in virtually every other case in which deadly poison is present.
    But the toxicity level of the environmental movement as a whole is substantially greater even than parts per hundred. It is certainly at least at the level of several parts per ten. This is obvious from the fact that the mainstream of the environmental movement makes no fundamental or significant criticisms of the likes of Messrs. Graber and McKibben.

The point is analogous to the one made frequently about the silence of so-called 'moderate Muslims' in the face of atrocities committed in Allah's name: if they truly opposed the extremists, then why the silence?  But this only explains Reisman's title - his talk goes much further. In order to survive, man either exploits the earth or dies.  In doing so, what we actually do is improve the environment, not destroy it:

    It is important to realize that when the environmentalists talk about destruction of the "environment" as the result of economic activity, their claims are permeated by the doctrine of intrinsic value. Thus, what they actually mean to a very great extent is merely the destruction of alleged intrinsic values in nature such as jungles, deserts, rock formations, and animal species which are either of no value to man or hostile to man. That is their concept of the "environment." If, in contrast to the environmentalists, one means by "environment" the surroundings of man--the external material conditions of human life--then it becomes clear that all of man's productive activities have the inherent tendency to improve his environment--indeed, that that is their essential purpose...
    Thus, all of economic activity has as its sole purpose the improvement of the environment--it aims exclusively at the improvement of the external, material conditions of human life. Production and economic activity are precisely the means by which man adapts his environment to himself and thereby improves it.
    So much for the environmentalists' claims about man's destruction of the environment. Only from the perspective of the alleged intrinsic value of nature and the nonvalue of man, can man's improvement of his environment be termed destruction of the environment.

Consider in this context the implications of environmental restrictions on producing energy and (here in NZ) the more-than-decade-long stranglehold on the construction of new power plants, which amount to a full-scale manifesto for anti-industrialism:

    The essential feature of the Industrial Revolution is the use of man-made power. To the relatively feeble muscles of draft animals and the still more feeble muscles of human beings, and to the relatively small amounts of useable power available from nature in the form of wind and falling water, the Industrial Revolution added man-made power....
    This man-made power is the essential basis of all of the economic improvements achieved over the last two hundred years. Its application is what enables us human beings to accomplish with our arms and hands the amazing productive results we do accomplish. To the feeble powers of our arms and hands is added the enormously greater power released by these sources of energy. Energy use, the productivity of labor, and the standard of living are inseparably connected, with the two last entirely dependent on the first...
    In total opposition to the Industrial Revolution and all the marvelous results it has accomplished, the essential goal of environmentalism is to block the increase in one source of man-made power after another and ultimately to roll back the production of man-made power to the point of virtual nonexistence, thereby undoing the Industrial Revolution and returning the world to the economic Dark Ages. There is to be no atomic power. According to the environmentalists, it represents the death ray. There is also to be no power based on fossil fuels. According to the environmentalists, it causes "pollution," and now global warming, and must therefore be given up. There is not even to be significant hydro-power. According to the environmentalists, the building of the necessary dams destroys intrinsically valuable wildlife habitat.
    Only three things are to be permitted as sources of energy, according to the environmentalists. Two of them, "solar power" and power from windmills, are, as far as can be seen, utterly impracticable as significant sources of energy. If somehow, they became practicable, the environmentalists would undoubtedly find grounds for attacking them. The third allowable source of energy, "conservation," is a contradiction in terms. "Conservation" is not a source of energy. Its actual meaning is simply using less. Conservation is a source of energy for one use only at the price of deprivation of energy use somewhere else.
    The environmentalists' campaign against energy calls to mind the image of a boa constrictor entwining itself about the body of its victim and slowly squeezing the life out of him. There can be no other result for the economic system of the industrialized world but enfeeblement and ultimately death if its supplies of energy are progressively choked off.

The reason for the anti-industrial thrust of environmentalism is the anti-human principle of so-called "intrinsic values" -- the idea that condemns a man for example for the crime of cutting a path through his farm down to the local beach, a home-builder for the crime of seeking to build in and enjoy a pristine landscape, and a power company for the crime of seeking to produce more power from an already existing power plant -- "something which provides an explanation in terms of basic principle of why the mainstream of the ecology movement does not attack what might be thought to be merely its fringe":

    [The idea of 'intrinsic value' of nature] is a fundamental philosophical premise which the mainstream of the movement shares with the alleged fringe and which logically implies hatred for man and his achievements. Namely, the premise that nature possesses intrinsic value--i.e., that nature is valuable in and of itself, apart from all contribution to human life and well-being...
    The premise of nature's intrinsic value extends to an alleged intrinsic value of forests, rivers, canyons, and hillsides--to everything and anything that is not man...
    The idea of nature's intrinsic value ... implies a perception of man as the systematic destroyer of the good, and thus as the systematic doer of evil. Just as man perceives coyotes, wolves, and rattlesnakes as evil because they regularly destroy the cattle and sheep he values as sources of food and clothing, so on the premise of nature's intrinsic value, the environmentalists view man as evil, because, in the pursuit of his well-being, man systematically destroys the wildlife, jungles, and rock formations that the environmentalists hold to be intrinsically valuable. Indeed, from the perspective of such alleged intrinsic values of nature, the degree of man's alleged destructiveness and evil is directly in proportion to his loyalty to his essential nature. Man is the rational being. It is his application of his reason in the form of science, technology, and an industrial civilization that enables him to act on nature on the enormous scale on which he now does. Thus, it is his possession and use of reason--manifested in his technology and industry--for which he is hated....
    When does the doctrine of intrinsic value serve as a guide to what man should do? Only when man comes to attach value to something. Then it is invoked to deny him the value he seeks. For example, the intrinsic value of the vegetation et al. is invoked as a guide to man's action only when there is something man wants, such as oil, and then, as in the case of Northern Alaska, its invocation serves to stop him from having it. In other words, the doctrine of intrinsic value is nothing but a doctrine of the negation of human values. It is pure nihilism.

That, dear reader, is the essential reason that anti-capitalism and anti-reason are linked; it is the chief reason the local Green Party's MPs appear far less concerned with "a wild and healthy planet" than they are with nannying, nationalism, nihilists and the nationalisation of NZ's children; and in point of fact it's the primary reason that yesterday's reds are now reincarnated as today's greens.  The link is clear enough, and was confirmed for me by a self-described communist who eagerly abandoned the Alliance to hop aboard the Greens when their new political vehicle looked ripe for takeover.  Says Reisman on this point:

    In my judgment, the "green" movement of the environmentalists is merely the old "red" movement of the communists and socialists shorn of its veneer of science. The only difference I see between the greens and the reds is the superficial one of the specific reasons for which they want to violate individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The reds claimed that the individual could not be left free because the result would be such things as "exploitation" and "monopoly." The greens claim that the individual cannot be left free because the result will be such things as destruction of the ozone layer and global warming. Both claim that centralized government control over economic activity is essential. The reds wanted it for the alleged sake of achieving human prosperity. The greens want it for the alleged sake of avoiding environmental damage. In my view, environmentalism and ecology are nothing but the intellectual death rattle of socialism in the West, the final convulsion of a movement that only a few decades ago eagerly looked forward to the results of paralyzing the actions of individuals by means of "social engineering" and now seeks to paralyze the actions of individuals by means of prohibiting engineering of any kind.

If you've never read Reisman's essay 'The Toxicity of Environmentalism' -- and even if you have -- then now's the time to download and print it out and read or re-read it.  Print out a copy and share it around [here's a PDF version to make it easy; and here's a pre-printed pamphlet]. It could have been written yesterday; understanding his main point will help determine tomorrow.

Maoists are as Maoists do.

When you he that Green MPs are protesting New Zealand's historic free trade deal with China, don't you find it strange to reflect that when Mao was murdering Chinese by the millions these same people wore Mao's portrait proudly on their badges and T-shirts, but now that China wants to take over the world's cheap T-shirt market they're protesting any deals being done.

Really strange.  When the Chinese were up their eyes in death and destruction the likes of Sue Bradford and Keith Locke had Mao's portrait on their bedroom walls and sent their murderers only praise, but now that the winds of freedom are beginning to blow away the violence, they themselves are now violently opposed to NZ sending the Chinese anything apart from protests.

Odd, don't you think. And instructive.

"Cutting carbon emissions is a futile exercise."

Cutting carbon emissions is a futile exercise.  Yes, it is.  But I didn't expect to be reading that headline on the Herald's 'Green Pages.'

Some NOT PC stats for March

Some stats for you from last month: 

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: TBA (last month #6)
Alexa Ranking, world: 313,902 (last month 277,663)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1,023/day
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 1021 (last month 994)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 28,016
Page views [from Statcounter] 42,769

Top posts:
    **"Nature Not Human Activity Rules Climate" - NIPCC
    ** SHOCK NEWS: Humans Don't Act as Economists Say They Do
    **Pathetic Authoritarian Backwater
    **It's Easter, Which Means ...
    **Where's Jesus?
    **Pure Perigo
    **When Economists Make Predictions, Walk Away

Top referring sites:
    Search engines, 10,602 referrals; Libz, 500; Kiwiblog, 426; Whale Oil, 347; No Minister, 231;
....Woolfie, 39;  Mulholland Drive, 187; SOLO, 180; Cactus Kate, 169; Anti Dismal, 145.
Top searches:
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They're reading NOT PC here:
                                        NOT-PC-March08

Top countries (Statcounter):
   NZ, 31.6%; USA, 24.5%;UK, 7.8%; Canada, 4.0%; Australia, 3.0%; Germany, 2.2%; France, 2.2%;
    Netherlands, 2.0%; India, 1.35%; Italy, 1.3%; Indonesia, 1.1%; Turkey, 1.0%; China, 0.94%.
Top countries (Alexa):
   NZ 70%; USA, 17.6%; Venezuela, 3.7%; Belgium, 1.5%; UK, 1.5%; Argentina, 0.7%; Iran, 0.7%
Top cities (Statcounter):  
   Auckland, 9.4%; Wellington, 1.7%; London, 1.3%; New York, 1.2%; Sydney, 1.2%; Montreal, 0.7%;

Cheers, and thanks for reading and linking to NOT PC, 
Peter Cresswell

Friday, 4 April 2008

Beer O'Clock: Amber and Dark Lagers Ain't Ales

This week's Beer O'Clock post comes to you from the pen of SOBA's Stu...

The two categories of beer we look at today, Amber Lager and Dark Lager, are probably the next most popular beer styles in the world after the Pale Lagers we discussed last month -- the subtle dark versions of the subtle pale beers we previously looked at.

A lot of beer drinkers think a pale golden beer is a lager, while anything amber or darker is ale. Wikipedia reinforces that concept by redirecting a search for "Lager" to a page on "Pale Lagers." This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ale and lager have nothing to do with colour and everything to do with yeast and temperature. Lager beers are fermented at cooler temperatures, usually over a long period of time, with yeast that works well under those conditions. The result, in very simplified terms, is a beer that is very much a sum of the ingredients (as opposed to ale, which is a sum of the ingredients plus the added feature of fermentation characteristics – usually ‘fruity’).

Most New Zealand draught beers (e.g. Tui, Lion Brown, Waikato, Speight’s Gold Medal Ale,anything with the word “draught” in it’s name) spend a lot of their time masquerading as ales, when in fact they are dark lager. These beers, broadly speaking, actually fall into the 'Dark American Lager' style – a mildly darker version of standard pale lagers (read: little-to-no malt or hop flavour and aroma, as little like traditional beer as a beer can possibly be). Most kiwi draught beers are probably a shade pale to fit perfectly even into the Dark American Lager style, but Speight’s Distinction has that shade more colour and sums it up quite aptly. Try Speight’s Gold Medal Ale, Distinction and Old Dark alongside each other to see the full colour spectrum of this style – the beers get slightly sweeter, in the finish, but not a lot else changes.

'Munich Dunkel' and 'Schwarzbier' (Black Beer) are the more traditional styles within the dark lager category. Munich Dunkel – characterised by its malt depth and complexity – is reasonably hard to find but Wigram’s award-winning Dunkel, which I discussed here at Beer O’Clock last year, is spotted regularly in supermarkets and Hofbrau Dunkel is seen here and there. Monteith’s Black and Black Mac are two of New Zealand’s most well known interpretations of Schwarzbier – a smooth, roasty dark lager with a moderate bitterness – but Founders Long Black, which is a more faithful interpretation of this classic style and New Zealand’s highest-rated beer amber/dark lager at Ratebeer, is my personal favourite.

Contrary to the name, which alludes to the colour of most of the New Zealand draught beers, 'Amber Lager' (consisting of Vienna and Oktoberfest styles) is actually one of the more rare categories in our local market. These are soft, elegant malt-focussed beers with balance from the dry finish and very mild hop bitterness. These beers are very subtle and are a perfect showcase for the rich, very lightly toasted malts of central-western Europe. New Zealand ambers get their sweetness from brewing sugars more than malt.

In the Vienna style, Founder’s Redhead, Wanaka Cardrona and Wigram Vienna are all found intermittently in supermarkets around the country, while Aucklanders have the chance to swing on down to Galbraith’s in Mt Eden for their excellent house-brewed Vienna fresh from out of the tap. Oktoberfest – the stronger, richer amber lager, rather than a beer festival – is even rarer still, with Hallertau Brewbar near Auckland making the only local version. Hofbrau Octoberfest, a pale interpretation of the style, is occasionally seen on tap in good beer bars.

New Zealand’s best beer within the 'Amber and Dark Lager' styles, as judged at BrewNZ last year, was Sunshine Brewery’s Black Magic. Sunshine Brewery is quite well known throughout the country for Gisborne Gold, but this excellent dark lager is an all-but-forgotten “stout” Schwarzbier sibling. It’ll possibly take a trip to Gisborne to hunt this beer down but it is a beer, and a part of the country, well worth the trip.

Next time, on our beer style journey, we’ll look at: The not very bitter taste of bitter.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Famous first words

This is a great quote:

'Market' was the sixth word I ever learnt – after 'This little piggy goes to...'
                        
- Dr Eamonn Butler, author of The Best Book on the Market.

As Samizdata Illuminatus says, "Isn't it great how we get children understanding buying and selling months if not years before the anti-market teachers can get their claws on them?"

Thursday, 3 April 2008

There's money to be made here ...

News just in for you youngsters who know how to read and write:

The Mont Pelerin Society is holding its bi-annual essay competition. The competition is held in conjunction with the Mont Pelerin General Meeting which is being held in Tokyo in September. The Hayek Essay Contest is open to all individuals 35 years or younger. Entrants should write a 5,000 word (maximum) essay. Essays are due on April 30, 2008 and winners will be announced on June 15, 2008.
First prize: US$2500 cash award + travel grant
Second prize: US$1500 cash award + travel grant
Third prize: US$1000 cash award + travel grant
For details of the competition please go to
http://www.montpelerin.org/essay.cfm.

If you do well, make sure you invite me to your shout.

I will arise and go now, and go from Glenbrook Beach

A man has been fined $80,000 and looks likely to lose his house for the crime of cutting a path down to the beach on what appears to be his own land.  I say "appears" because the bloody journalist who covered this outrage didn't see fit to clearly establish whether or not the land on which the path was cut was the "offender's" property or not -- such things being considered irrelevant in these days in which obeisance must be paid to entire communities for the sin of cutting down one's own trees on one's own property, and thereby offending the Great Earth God Gaia.

The journalist did however see fit to tell us that this is considered "high end offending"; that the area's mayor called it "severe offending and the worst [our] Council has seen"; and to report  the judge's comment that it "looked as though a large slice had been cut out of a living organism and its entrails spilled out on the foreshore."

Good to see that District Court judges have retained their objectivity despite administering a nasty non-objective law -- ie., the Resource Management Act, under which the prosecution and fine were taken. 

The RMA, by the way, was introduced by the National Party.  Just so you know.  And the beach in question, just so you know, is Glenbrook Beach on the Manukau Harbour -- a muddy sort of a beach just up the road from that notable environmental destination the Glenbrook Steel Mill -- and as the report concedes "the esplanade [itself] was inaccessible to anyone because it was covered in gorse and tree stumps, and the coast was already compromised with accessways for boat ramps."  This is the "living organism" whose "entrails" have been so so "recklessly" spilled.

"We have three kids, and they want to get down to the beach," says the poor sap who's about to lose his house. "It was just for access from the property."  He'll know better then to offend Gaia next time he saves up enough to buy his own property, won't he.

"The most important idea in the history of social analysis"

What's the one major thing that economics teaches?  I can hear the answer from the back of the room: from Jeffrey Tucker, who calls it "the most important idea in the history of social analysis" -- a "description of reality that is all around us but rarely noticed" -- one that has been around for many centuries,yet "first discovered by late-medieval monks working in Spain. It was given scientific precision in the classical period. It is the basis of advances in social theory in the 20th century. "

In fact [says Tucker, it is an essential part of the case for freedom. It was the basis of the belief of our ancestors that they could throw off tyrannical rule and still not have society descend into poverty and chaos. The failure to comprehend this idea is at the very root of the pervasive bias against liberty and free enterprise in our times, on the left and the right.

What's he talking about?  Go and see ...

The crumbling warmist paradigm

death-by-coal_h150 I don't agree with Thomas Kuhn's account of why scientific ideas change, but his description of how people behave as their comfortable 'scientific paradigm' crumbles seems to be borne out in the increasingly hyperbolic statements of prominent warmists.

"Paradigm shifts," Kuhn explained, overturn the established order. Emotions run high. The process begins with "scientists … behav[ing] differently" and continues with "pronounced professional insecurity" whereby years and perhaps lifetimes of work and writing are put at risk.  [Quoted in Capitalism at Work]

Witness for example media mogul Ted Turner, whose Time Warner empire peddles climate porn by the truckload, and who told PBS's Charlie Rose on Tuesday that "not taking drastic action to correct global warming ... will be catastrophic." Catastrophic!

We'll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.

None of the crops will grow!  We'll all be cannibals!  No sign of hysteria, insecurity or "different" behaviour there.  (Meanwhile, outside Turner's window, global warming comes to Michigan.) 

Now Turner isn't a scientist, far from it, but NASA's James Hansen is.  Hansen is a leading warmist -- it was Hansen who first popularised the warmist mythology back in 1998 on the basis of little more than one hot summer -- and now after a decade of declining temperatures when according to all the models we should be seeing an accelerating increase, he's seeing his "paradigm" crumble and he's starting to lash out. He recently likened the proposed construction of a new coal-based power plant as equivalent to the holocaust. He said the trains that bring coal to the new power plant are nothing else than the "death trains" that were moving the Jews to extermination camps.  And now he accuses Duke Energy's James Rogers of being a prospective killer for supporting a new coal plant.

"The process begins with 'scientists … behav[ing] differently' and continues with 'pronounced professional insecurity' whereby years and perhaps lifetimes of work and writing are put at risk. "  Keep watching.

No cussing, please.

I'm afraid to say that despite persistent claims to the contrary, this blog has now been certified by the Blog & Website Cuss-o-Meter as having 41% less cussing than other similar blogs who took the test.  And that really pisses me off.

                                                               The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Paradise for sale

Oh yes, if you're in the market for a slice of New Zealand paradise, then that slice is down in the Marlborough Sounds just waiting for you.  Story here. Picture below.
                      20537797_06

Ten million dollars should fill your boots up.

Peter Brown is right

Peter Brown is right.

Mr Brown says if New Zealand continues its open-door immigration policy, the country could be inundated with people who have no intention of integrating into society.

Quite right.  If immigration continues, we'll undoubtedly be "inundated" with more xenophobic bigots just like him, since such bigots can be found everywhere -- and their stench makes the whole world a lesser place --  but more importantly we'll also be "inundated" with good, hard-working people full of drive and enterprise, people who come here for a better life and who, by doing so, make this country a better place, despite the likes of Mr Brown and his party leader Winston Peters being in it.

UPDATE: It's true too that people "form their own mini-societies" just as Brown charges, but what his blind bigotry makes him unable to notice is that most "mini-societies" are made up of people who choose each other's company based not on race, but on the basis of shared values. People who like playing computer games, driving fast cars and talking philosophy for example will tend to spend a lot of time with other people who, respectively, like playing computer games, driving fast cars and talking philosophy. 

That's a good thing.  That's how a civilised society works.

And it's a good thing too that bigots like spending time with other bigots -- it saves us for the most part from being inflicted with their stench, except of course in election years.

Cooperative Homesteads Housing, Minnesota - Frank Lloyd Wright (1942)

                                coop_hmstd_01
coop_hmstd_04 A project that was extinguished by World War II involved a group of enthusiastic homesteaders eager to build the earth-bermed rammed earth houses Wright designed for their shared property, on which they were each to pursue their agricultultural dreams. 

Each house was to cost approx. $1400 in 1942 dollars.  More here.

                                    coop_hmstd_02

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Vultures circling over "fibre future"

State worshipper David Skilling of the NZ Institute proposes the government establish and partially fund a coercive monopoly called FibreCo to "roll out" national broadband and deliver dividends to rent-seeking crony capitalists who participate. "For now, this country's fibre future remained reliant on investment decisions taken by Telecom," says the Institute, which faces "weak incentives" to invest significantly in a fibre access network. The whole panegyric to rent-seeking cronyism is here.

Those "weak incentives" by the way include the continued support for local loop nationalisation from the likes of Skilling and David Farrar and of course Obergruppenfuehrer Cunliffe himself -- not to mention all those competitors of Telecom who wish to take advantage of its networks without any investment themselves -- and of course the dismemberment of Telecom forced upon it by Cunliffe in an effort to boost his ministerial ranking. 

In other words, the faces of those "weak incentives" are themselves and others like them who support the ministerial jackboot being applied to Telecom's private property, and the sort of coercive resnt-seeking proposed by Skilling.

People like Russell Brown, who while continuing to celebrate the ongoing nationalisation of Telecom's existing networks,  regularly celebrates how the faster broadband he's now getting in Pt Chev is already allowing him to steal even more films and TV from the internet.

Good to know why he's so keen on faster broadband, anyway.

Perhaps these luminaries could read and reflect on the comments of Telstra's Sol Trujillo last year when a similar public-private partnership was proposed by Kevin Rudd -- Trujillo called this a "kumbaya, holding hands" theory he wanted no part of;  said Trujillo: "We are only going to participate in the things that we own and control."  And how else could you justify the sizeable investment involved? What incentives are there?

Perhaps too they could reflect on Morgan Tsvangirai's argument for the importance of reinstituting property rights in Zimbabwe and think about the importance of drawing up such a programme for New Zealand, instead of continuing to bang the drum for their destruction.

UPDATE: Paul Walker comments at his blog: "Its not clear to me how a state guaranteed monopoly would speed up anything... Competition gives the best incentives, especially in rapidly changing, innovative markets."  Perfectly correct.  Doesn't stop Rod Drury and, lamentably, Bernard Hickey (who should know better) joining the chorus in praise of the corporatising/nationalising state. "It goes against the grain for me to recommend that a government effectively nationalise a private asset," says Hickey, who doesn't let the splinters slow his slide into the nationalisation chorus.

"Have you now, or have you ever been ... ?" (updated)

Guyon Espiner, who's neither a scientist nor apparently a journalist, appears willing however to channel the ghost of one Joseph McCarthy. See the grandstanding fool burning the AGW heretics right here on the Ken and Barbie Show.

UPDATE 1: "Panic Mode": "British environmental analyst Christopher Monckton says Al Gore's latest attack on global warming skeptics shows the former vice president and other climate alarmists are 'panicking'."

   Monckton, a policy advisor for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s, says the former vice president can enjoy his "flat earth fantasies" for a few months, but in the end, the world will be laughing at him.
   "The alarmists are alarmed, the panic mongers are panicking, the scare mongers are scared; the Gores are gored. Why? Because global warming stopped ten years ago; it hasn't got warmer since 1998," he points out. "And in fact in the last seven years, there has been a downturn in global temperatures equivalent on average to about [or] very close to one degree Fahrenheit per decade. We're actually in a period ... of global cooling."
   Monckton contends Gore is now "panicking" because he has staked his reputation as a former American VP on "telling the world that we're all doomed unless we shut down 90 percent of the Western economies." He also contends that Gore is the largest "global-warming profiteer."
Gore's group The Alliance for Climate Protection is currently launching a new $300 million ad campaign that demands reforms in environmental law to help reduce the supposed "climate crisis." But Monckton points out that in the U.K., Gore is not allowed to speak in public about his "green investment company" because to do so would violate racketeering laws by "peddling a false prospectus."

[Hat tip Leighton Smith]

UPDATE 2: Annie Fox gets a knock on the door from a Greenpeace lass:

   She ... asked if I wanted a "better world for my children." ... "Yes" I said "I do want a better world for my nieces" and that was precisely why I wouldn't support Greenpeace or any other environmentalist organisations.
   It is the very people that Greenpeace attack that make my world, this world, a beautiful place to live in [I told her]. They provide me with light when it's dark, food when I'm hungry, movies when I'm bored, champagne when I'm celebrating, chemo when I'm dying, planes when I'm in the mood to view this beautiful world. They also provide me all the necessities that allow me to do the job I love - books, computers, software, internet, financial markets, the cup that holds my tea and the tea itself.
   The policies and aim of these environmentalists are no less than a desire to turn man back into animals, scrambling around in caves, or at best eking out a meager existence on a farm. This world they desire would mean millions upon millions would stave to death, and they would be the lucky ones. The rest would live a short and miserable existence in a truly malevolent world. A world that would kill me and my nieces and all future generations of my family. I would no sooner align myself with the green movement than I would the
Ebola Virus.

I don't expect the lass will be knocking on that door again for a while.

UPDATE 3: Further to the comment above referencing McCarthyism, Murray Rothbard is unusually perceptive on the legacy of the Senator from Wisconsin.  It was, in fact, McCarthy and "McCarthyism" he argues that provided the main catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from small-government quasi-libertarianism to today's holy-rolling anti-Communism, with all that implied.  This is the very platform from which the Buckley conservatives buried the classical liberal 'Old Right.' Reflected Rothbard in the 1970s: the "problem with anti-Communism as a movement ... is how it diverts domestic policy away from individual liberty toward the police-state paternalism for which 'conservatism' has become synonymous."

At any rate, in retrospect, it is clear that libertarians and Old Rightists, including myself, had made a great mistake in endorsing domestic red-baiting, a red-baiting that proved to be the major entering wedge for the complete transformation of the original right wing. We should have listened more carefully to Frank Chodorov, and to his splendidly libertarian stand on domestic red-baiting: "How to get rid of the communists in the government? Easy. Just abolish the jobs."

Genuine hope for Zimbabwe

Several years ago, Robert Muldoon observed accurately that Robert Mugabe was famous only for running around the jungle shooting people.

wzim101vid The three decades since his emergence from the jungle have shown him ruthlessly capable of doing anything to remain in power, so the announcement by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai following the weekend's poll that "Zimbabwe will never be the same again," seems premature, if not wholly optimistic.

That said, it's worth wondering what change if any would be represented by a change of power in favour of Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change.  An article by Tsvangirai in a recent Wall Street Journal suggests the change would be profound -- not only is his he more aware of the reason's for Zimbabwe's collapse than are those African leaders who seem mystified at the basket cases they've made of their own countries, but Tsvangirai knows precisely what to do about it:

Out of the many reasons for Zimbabwe's decline, three stand out. First is the ruling regime's contempt for the rule of law...  The government of Zimbabwe must be committed to protecting persons and property; and the restoration of political freedom and property rights is an essential part of MDC's economic recovery strategy...

The second reason for Zimbabwe's decline is the government's destruction of economic freedom, in order to satisfy an elaborate patronage system.

The MDC is committed to slashing bureaucratic red tape and letting domestic and foreign entrepreneurs improve their lot and, consequently, Zimbabwe's fortunes. We will open economic opportunity to all Zimbabweans. Unlike the ZANU-PF dictatorship, which has destroyed domestic entrepreneurship, we consider the business acumen and creative ingenuity of the people to be the main source of our future growth.

The third factor responsible for the country's decline is the size and rapaciousness of the government. Today, that size is determined by the requirements of patronage...  The MDC plans a complete restructuring of the government, including a reduction of the number of ministers to 15. The government will have to live within its means. It will not be allowed to inflate its way out of trouble...  Most state-owned companies are woefully inefficient, a strain on the budget and a much-abused vehicle for ZANU-PF patronage. They will be privatized or shut down.

And he's been saying this for years - here he is in 2003 making the case that freedom and prosperity are linked:

The key to starting an economic recovery is the restoration of the rule of law, a peaceful situation in the country, a situation of law and order. Confidence-building measures have to be carried out so that all the potential players can be reassured that recovery is intended and under way. There needs to be a clear signal that respect for individual rights and for property rights has returned.

Hot damn, there's hope for Zimbabwe yet.  Based on those words, and presuming that he means them, if Tsvangirai can't get the authority and the support necessary to implement his programme in Zimbabwe, I'd be damned happy to have him implement it here.

SFO to go. Good riddance.

After twenty-one years of bullying businessmen --  and with nary a serious scalp to speak of for all that persecution -- the Serious Fraud Office is being disestablished, and minister Annette King is insisting that the police unit taking over the SFO's duties will not be given the powers to breach basic rights that the SFO's goons  had.

No more power to compel people to answer questions;  their right to silence will now be protected.  No more powers to compel the handing over of documents and information, regardless of defences such as client confidentiality; instead, the new agency will have to convince a judge to order suspects to hand over documents. 

In other words, accused individuals will be recognised as being innocent until proved guilty -- without being bullied by the SFO, which itself was punishment enough -- and at least in this small regard, the Bill of Rights Act will be recognised as a document guiding the relationship between individuals and the state.

Good for Annette King.  For once.

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1938 'Dream House' for Life magazine

flw1938

1938fp02Frank Lloyd Wright's 1938 'Dream House' for Life magazine, described here at Life.Com.

"Space," says Wright, in a letter to the clients describing the house, "is characteristic of this free pattern for a freer life than you could possibly live in the conventional house."  The house is a two-zoned open and flowing plan "with special privacies, ultra conveniences and style all the while."  Said Life magazine in 1938:

1938fp01 Note the L-shaped double fireplace. By means of folding screens, the dining and ground-floor sleeping spaces can be thrown into the living-recreation room and the whole space, treated as a kind of enclosed patio, can be thrown open to the outdoors...  For privacy, [the clients] may close off their ground-floor bedroom, leaving it open to the garden, and [their two children] may retreat to their bedrooms at either end of the second floor, which are separated by a guest room in the middle. Mr. Wright has thoughtfully placed [the husband's] office next to the kitchen so that [his wife] can answer the telephone for him when he is away from home...

Life magazine had set up the 'Dream House' series as a competition between traditionalists and so-called modernists. Time magazine called Wright's design a "walkaway [victory] for the moderns ... which reduced the merit of [the more traditional] design to that of a safe investment."

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Economics and History by essentials

I'm enormously enjoying two courses I'm currently doing and, unlike the post below this one, it's no April Fool's Day hoax to say so. I've never found economics and history so fascinating -- but then, I am studying under two masters!

1. To the obvious frustration of many readers, one of those courses is George Reisman's self-study programme in economics, based on his book Capitalism: A Treatise in Economics -- which according to Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, deserves to take its place alongside that of Adam Smith's.

A crucial achievement of Reisman's -- one that puts him almost completely at odds with the 'thinkers' behind much of today's more mainstream neo-Keynesian economics -- is that his course (and his book) places the producer at the heart of the economic process.

This focus on production instead of consumption really does begin at the first page, right there in his definition of economics -- he defines economics as the science that studies the production of wealth under a system of division of labour. (You can compare his definition to some other commonly used definitions here, and reflect yourself on the implications of those differences.)

One major implication of this focus is his concern with just what exactly is required for the production of wealth under a system of division of labour to flourish. Rather than simply observing that producers produce and taking it for granted that they will continue no matter what is inflicted upon them -- which is the case with so many economists, who are only too happy to dream up and propose ever more imaginary restrictions -- Reisman instead is intensely concerned with the material, cultural and philosophical requirements of production.

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that production itself be held as a value -- which means, he argues in our most recent lecture, that the requirements of human life be held as objectively valuable. (The end of economic activity therefore should be understand not in consumption as such, but more fundamentally as the furthering of human life and human values.) There are conditions under which the production of wealth under a system of division of labour is unable to flourish -- and here the student is invited to reflect on those parts of the contemporary world in which the the production of any kind of wealth is unable to flourish; these are without exeption those parts of the world in which the values of western civilisation (in brief: respect for logic, reason and individual rights) are spurned.

As he argued in our last lecture, the use of logic and reason and a respect for indidual rights crucially underpins the production of wealth, and are themselves objectively valuable. If the requirements of human life are recognised as being objectively valuable, then the value of western civilisation and the values that underpin it must itself be so recognised.

Consider the almost complete ignorance of those concepts in those parts of the world in which wealth is conspicuously absent, and the outright racist agenda of multiculturalism -- which blithely proclaims all cultures as equal, no matter how destructive to the human lives within them -- all but silences our ability to point this out. Reisman points out that to define 'culture' as being equivalent to race is to ignore the crucial truth that the life-saving values of western culture are open to anybody of any race who wishes to embrace them.

Fortunately, for readers unwilling to embrace this idea themselves, they can read the argument online in George Reisman's superb pamphlet 'Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism.'

I commend it to your attention.

2. The other course that I'm enjoying immensely is historian Scott Powell's 'entire history of the world course' (official title A First History for Adults) of which I'm presently just biting off a small morsel: his ten lectures on 'The Islamist Entanglement,' delivered by tele-conference. These are not just enjoyable, but as I go through the course I realise how necessary a thorough understanding of the history of the Middle East is to understanding its present state, and its possible futures.

The chief reason it's so enjoyable is not just Scott's abundant enthusiam, but his ability to explain history with both the detailed point-of-view necessary to seeing precisely who did what to whom and why, but also from the 'mountain-top' perspective necessary to integrate all the details, and draw all the wider implications therefrom.

The most recent lecture on Turkey's history will give you an example. As Scott titles his summary, 'Turkey Shows the Middle East’s Potential–and it Doesn’t Look Good.' A lesser historian would find it near impossible to describe and integrate the multitude of apparent contradictions about the most westernised, most advanced and most successful of all the Middle East's Islamic countries -- the benevolent dictator who secularised the country; the military dictatorships who frequently rescue Turkey from 'demise by democracy'; how Turkey's entry to the European Union could potentially destroy it ...

Scott's history-by-essentials offers the opportunity to see Turkey's future as the microsm of the Middle East's. It's a disquieting outlook.

But it's still not too late to sign up for either this ten-lecture course, or the whole First History for Adults. I can thoroughly recommend it.

I recant.

I've taken some time away to rethink things, and I have to say upon close reflection that all my opponents are correct. About everything. I recant completely of all my former heresies, and hereby embrace all the contradictions of my former opponents. This I now believe:

  • We are all our brother's keepers -- we must be forced to keep our brothers. Any other notion is immoral, not to say evil.
  • It's sexist to say "brothers." It's judgemental to say "evil"!
  • It's not my fault -- I was made that way. It's not bad behaviour, it's bad luck. No one is responsible for bad behaviour: We have no free will; society is to blame.
  • We can't ever know anything about the past, we know nothing for certain about the present, but we can accurately project the future to three decimal places.
  • There's no problems in Mathematics being silent to causality; reality itself is silent as to causality.
  • Wot's reality?
  • If it's in the models, then it must be right.
  • If the UN says it, then it must be right.
  • If it's in Wikipedia, then it has to be right (especially if the subject is controversial).
  • If George Bush says it, then it has to be wrong (especially if the subject is controversial).
  • Global warming is man-made. We did it. We did it here, we did it on Mars and Venus, we did it in the Medieval period, we did it in the early twentieth century. We are all to blame.
  • Al Gore is always right. I love Saint Al, and look forward to helping him save the planet.
  • The Greens are always right. I love Jeanette, and look forward to helping her clear her gorse.
  • We have plenty of power, and no need to worry. All forms of alternative energy are absolutely reliable, but nuclear energy is not.
  • But we are running out of resources, and the price system is incapable of letting us know in time. We are a virus on the planet and should be wiped out. (After you, please. I do believe in courtesy.)
  • We have plenty of wealth in New Zealand, and no need to catch up with the rest of the developed world. In fact, no need even to be in the developed world. Industry is so last century.
  • Islamist violence will go away if we just ignore it. Can't we just all get along?
  • Crime will go away if we just ignore it. Can't we just stop being judgemental (see above under 'Society is to blame anyway.')
  • Tax is good, and more tax is better. Except on Tuesdays.
  • You didn't earn your money anyway - society let you have it. Be grateful.
  • You can't run your own life; you need politicians and planners to run it for you. Be grateful.
  • Minimum wage laws raise wages for everybody. We should raise minimum wages to twenty, thirty, forty dollars an hour -- and force all employers to hire extra staff. Be grateful we let you have staff ... or a business.
  • The way to lower housing costs is to force house-builders to build low-cost houses. Building inspectors always know what they're doing.
  • The way to lower the cost of land is to restrict its supply. Planners always know what they're doing.
  • The way to lower the cost of money is to nationalise it. Central bankers always know what they're doing.
  • The way to promote business activity is to increase compliance costs.
  • The way to protect individual rights is for the government to redefine them.
  • The way to protect individual responsibilities is for the government to assume them.
  • Businessmen are all thieves. Thank goodness for bureaucrats.
  • Politicians are all honest. Thank goodness journalists don't bother them with hard questions.
  • Anonymous commenters are absolutely justified in insulting people who aren't themselves anonymous -- and absolutely correct to complain when other bloggers use obvious pseudonyms to protect themselves. Thank goodness we have unrueful people unwilling to put their name to their comments to keep the rest of us honest.
  • Thank goodness too that we have sub-standard bloggers who, while unwilling to put their names to their own posts, are nonetheless willing to insist that political advertisers put their names and addresses on their ads.
  • People are right to feel aggrieved when speakers at large functions don't personally stroke them. Thank goodness for sleazy con-men who do.
  • Voters are right to feel aggrieved when politicians offer real choices. Thank goodness for sleazy con-men who don't.
  • It's sexist to say "con-men."
  • It's racist to say "one law for all." It's not racist however to say that one race should have special courts, special legal privileges, and special voting rights.

=> This I believe, on this date of April 1st, in the year of our Lord 2008 ... at least until midday anyway.

UPDATE: The Museum of Hoaxes has history's all-time Top 100 April Fools Day hoaxes. My favourite was NPR Radio's 1992 announcement that, in a surprise move, Richard Nixon, was running for President again under the campaign slogan, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again."

Some questions ...

If it's wrong for Robert Mugabe to give stolen tractors and stolen farms to his supporters to buy their votes, why isn't it wrong for Helen Clark to give stolen money to her's to buy their's?

When will Winston give taxpayers back the $158,000 he stole from them last election to buy the baubles of office?

Why is it wrong for Frank Bainimarama to crack down on criticism of the government by censoring newspapers, but not wrong for Labour and the Greens to crack down on criticism of the government by introducing the Electoral Finance Act?

Will the new 15% R&D deduction introduced today cost more for businesses and the IRD to administer than it will save?

Will National's proposed new $50 'Victims of Crime Levy' cost more to collect then it will earn?

Who will the levies go to when people are arrested for victimless crimes?

Why do we have laws against victimless crimes?

Why $50?

When will the Warriors admit they've got no idea what they're doing?

When will John Key?

Answers on a postcard please.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Earth Hour

Here's a letter to the head of the World Wildlife Fund that explains the precise nature of WWF's Earth Hour:

Dear Mr. Roberts:
You and members of your organization worry that industrialization and economic growth are harming the earth's environment. I worry that the intensifying hysteria about the state of the environment - and that the resulting hostility to economic growth - might harm humankind's prospects for comfortable, healthy, enjoyable, and long lives.
So I commend you on your "Earth Hour" effort. Persuading people across the globe to turn off lights for one hour supplies the perfect symbol for modern environmentalism: a collective effort to return humankind to the dark ages.
Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

[Hat tip Anti Dismal]

If tax cuts on Tuesday are good, then more tax cuts on Wednesday are even better.

Have you ever considered that all the arguments for the three percentage point cut in the company tax rate that's happening on Tuesday also exist for a three percentage point cut in every tax, thereafter -- and in fact for every further three percentage point cut after this one.

To be more precise, if one tranche of tax cuts of three percentage points is good, then successive tranches of three-percentage-point tax cuts is even better. If a tax cut on Tuesday is good, then another tax cut every day thereafter must surely be balm for the bottom line.

If a tax cut of three percentage points in the company tax rate is "good for investment," then so too is every further three percentage point cut in tax rates.

If a tax credit for research and development is "good for investment in research and development," then so too is every further tax credit for research and development.

If a tax cut of any size is good for low-wage earners to help them deal with cost and living increases, then so too is another cut in tax rates of the same size.

If the tax cuts that take effect on Tuesday "help provide a buffer against the expected economic slowdown," then how much better buffer would be provided by another tranche of tax cuts on Wednesday.

You see, all the arguments for this small cut in taxes that comes into force on Tuesday will exist the day after -- in other words, if tax cuts on Tuesday are good, then further tax cuts on Wednesday ... and Thursday ... and Friday ... are even better.  Far from leaving opposition political parties 'no room to move' by introducing tax cuts in election year, Michael Cullen has offered any political party of principle the opportunity to go on, two, three or four steps even better -- if any such party existed.

What's wrong for example with successive three percentage point tax cuts sufficient to strangle government spending almost completely, and provide the spur to prosperity we so desperately need.

And no fear either with the sophism that "tax cuts cause inflation."  That's nonsense.  Tax cuts don't put extra cash in the economy the way the Reserve Bank or The Fed does when it prints money -- the money in your pocket from a tax cut is real money, your money, not the Reserve Bank's counterfeit capital -- what they do is change the entity that's spending your money.  Instead of the government choosing where to put it, you do.

It's no more inflationary for you to spend your own money than it is for government to be spending it -- in fact, everything would suggest it's less inflationary for you to keep your money than for government to take it and spend it on inflating the bureaucracy:  Individuals are more likely to save some of their money when more of it is left in their pocket, whereas governments are always better at spending binges; and companies allowed to keep more of their money are likely to plough it into reinvesting in their own prosperity -- and any extra spending is going to be on producer goods, not on the consumer goods on which the Reserve Bank bases its inflation figures.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Digital Free Radical now online!

                              Click the pic to visit the Store!

The latest copy of the sharpest, funniest, most daring, most honest, clearest thinking libertarian/Objectivist magazine around is quite literally hot off the press, and subscribers should be receiving their copies in the post from today -- and should hit these shops from Monday, if not before.

And if you just can't wait, you can (any minute now) download a digital copy from the Free Radical store, and a FREE A3 poster of that cover.  Send one to your favourite political party leader.  :-)

Enjoy!
Peter Cresswell
EDITOR, THE FREE RADICAL
Politics, Economics & Life as if Freedom Mattered